What is toxoplasma gondii?


Quick Answer

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A toxoplasma infection is usually caused by eating or handling raw meat that has been contaminated by the parasite.

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Full Answer

It is possible to be infected with Toxoplasma gondii and not display any symptoms, notes the CDC. A normal and healthy immune system is normally strong enough to suppress symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they sometimes resemble the flu and include swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches. In more severe cases, Toxoplasma gondii can infect the brain or eyes. This typically only occurs in people with weakened immune systems, including those with AIDS and patients undergoing chemotherapy. Infection of the eyes, known as ocular toxoplasmosis, can cause blurred or reduced vision, pain and redness of the eye.

In most cases, treatment is not necessary for toxoplasmosis, states the CDC. A person with a healthy immune system will stop experiencing the symptoms of the disease within a few weeks or months. Pregnant women are usually prescribed medication to treat toxoplasmosis.

To prevent a Toxoplasma infection, any meat consumed should be cooked to a safe temperature, warns the CDC. This temperature varies depending on the type of meat. Toxoplasma gondii is also sometimes found in cat feces, so cat litter boxes should be cleaned regularly to prevent infection.

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